on november 28, hundreds of villagers marched to the Mangalore deputy commissioner's office to demand postponement of a public hearing in Bajpe, about 20 km from Mangalore. The hearing was conducted for a proposed special economic zone spread over 1,618 hectares. The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board conducted the hearing and it was chaired by Maheshwara Rao, the deputy commissioner of Mangalore district.
Local residents called the hearing "illegal" because the draft environmental impact assessment report was available only in English and not in Kannada, the local language, as mandated by law. There were attempts to pacify the residents but to no avail. The district commissioner then wound up the meeting and later informed the local media that he forward the public hearing report to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and that the ministry would take a final decision.
Krishi Bhoomi Samrakshana Samithi, representing the affected villages, wants a fresh hearing. "... We demand that the deputy commissioner must immediately announce by way of an executive order that the aforesaid public hearing has been postponed," reads the samithi's statement. ngos, however, fear that the government may still go ahead with the project. "The flawed eia notification 2006 allows the government to clear a project of such scale, even without a proper public hearing.The provision has been repeatedly abused by authorities resulting in violation of human rights and environmental norms," says Leo F Saldanha of Bangalore-based Environment Support Group, who attended the hearing.
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